Yangguan, Yadan (or Yardan) and Yumenguan
Dunhuang Travel Blog› entry 10 of 17 › view all entries
Then I had to get my breakfast and met Gudrun, Marina and Dagmar, with whom I was to spend the day there. I had the chef make the beef noodle because he was actually pulling and making the noodles right there from a lump of dough! It was a small portion and was good.
I had to check out of the room and packed my bag already. After leaving my bag at the hotel luggage storage, we boarded our taxi about 8:30 for our tour for the day. Leaving Dunhuang on the west side, we could see more sand dunes going west, eventually it ended and we saw mountains where the West 1000 Buddha Cave was. We also passed the movie set called Dunhuang old city, which was used for many movies, but since I had not seen that many movies I probably would not have recognized anything from the movie set.
Then we turned to Yangguan, it and its campanion Yumenguan were started by Wudi from Han dynasty as the western boundary of China. So there were severa famous poems about these Guans, with people feeling vey sad about going west of them because they were leaving their families and friends behind and going into unfamiliar and hostile territory. I had read that all that's left of Yangguan was the base of a beacon tower, so nothing too exciting, just a visit to a name in history. But this place turned out to have a lot to offer. First we saw a reconstructed city wall, which contained the ticket office. We bought tickets at 50RMB each. Inside we found a guide waiting, she spoke English.
A famous Chinese poem mentioned Yangguan described what it was like during the Tang Dynasty, "A light morning rain at Wei City (an old name for Yangguan) washed off the dusts, at the Inn the willows were new with green, I advise you to have another cup of wine, west of Yangguan you will have no acquaintances." So going west of Yangguan was considered to be a pretty extreme act of going into the unknown territory.
on of artifacts, signs in Chinese and English, and free English speaking guide. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the two exhibit halls. We had spent too much time already, so breezed through the hall on the silk road itself, and went out the back gate to see the ruins. At the back gate, one can reenact the old customs office of getting your passport (which you buy and they wrote in Chinese caligraphy your name and date, for 35RMB) and a soldier in costume inspects and I had my photos taken with him.
At the ruins, there was a good view of the snow capped mountains to the south. Nearby was the Antique Beach where once people were able to collect pieces of old potteries and perhaps find valueable antiques, but now it's not allowed.
There was a reconstructed military camp here too, but we didn't do much than just walk through it. Near the museum they also had a big souvenir shop, where a bottle of water went for 10RMB! where elsewhere you could get it for 1, 2 or 3 RMB.
We were running late,, it's past noon, since we had a lot to see and far to go still. So we went back on the road. and head for Yadan. We passed Yumenguan on the way but would stop on the way back. The distance between Yangguan and Yumenguan was 90km of desert, really not much, but there was one oasis where farmers grew grapes, melons etc.
Then there was some road construction, but nothing as bad as we had on the way to the 7-1 Glacier in Jiayuguan. We arrived at Yadan at almost 2pm. Here they had constructed a big building and some dormitories for the workers. We bought tickets, 50RMB entrance fee, and 20 RMB for the tram which you had to take to see the park.
We boarded the open air tram and a guide came along, but she did not speak Englislh, so I had to translate. Yadan was at the bottom of a dried up lake bed. The soft sediments in layers were eroded by the wind and water over the years, and created the towered formations.
We left around 4pm and headed back to Yumenguan, the Han dynasty Great Wall fragments, where a group of Chinese tourist had just finished some picnic or event there, so it was more crowded than elsewhere we had been today. The Han great wall was just a small section of a wall, looking more like a wall than a great wall. The layers of reeds and stones used to build it can be seen easily. At different parts of China, the Great Wall was not really one wall, but made at different times and using different materials and methods.
After about 10 minutes, we headed over to Yumenguan, where the corner of the city gate was still there.There was a rock there enscribed with the famous poem about Yumenguan,
which basically said that the scenary here is one lonely gate and many tall mountains (which were far away), the foreign flute player doesn't need to blame the willows for not growing, because the wind of spring does not go past Yumenguan.
Still, not a lot to do here so after about 10 minutes or so, we went back to the car and headed back to Dunhuang.
Then I went to town in the hired taxi to meet Phil, Julia and Hannes at their hotel at 7pm. We all piled into the taxi and took our 130km drive to Liuyuan, where the train for Turpan departs. Supposedly the train would be coming into Dunhuang in June, but not yet. We saw some black hills along the way, looking like they had a lot of iron. There were also many mining and materials factories in Liuyuan, so I suppose iron is plenty here.
I had negoatiated 150RMB for the 3 German ladies tomorrow night for their taxi to Liuyuan train station so we split the rest for the days of touring in Dunhuang, 550 RMB divided by 4 people, they could have the taxi take them on short trips in town too but they opted not to bother.
At Liuyuan, we found the nearest restaurant and went in to have a quick dinner. Phil looked at the menu and said all the dishes were kind of expensive, above 50, so I asked if they had cheaper dishes. They had just simple noodles and some vegetables and stir fried dishes for 10 per person, and I ordered a whole chicken, the noodles were OK, large quantity, which Julia was able to finish to my amazement. Our train was about 10:28pm, and it arrived a few minutes early. We had separate cars, so I boarded my car and found the sleeper bunk, which was jusst vacated by someone. However I was able to get clean pillows and blankets from the upper bunk which had not been used. This train had come from Zhenchou almost 24 hours ago, and the neighors in the same room were there for a day already! I suppose the policy is not to change beddings just because people left or boarded in the middle of the route.